Starting out—watching the ships
As a young girl growing up in the African town of Ceuta off the Strait of Gibraltar, Patricia Sanchez-Diaz, CCXP, became fascinated with global trade. From the window of her home or the comfort of the local beach, it was hard to miss the massive ships she could see traversing the strait as they carried their cargo to its final destination. When it was time to apply for university, in a turn of fate, Patricia’s application for admission to study marine biology became lost in the mail. She studied business instead, and upon finishing school, began working at a port authority in southwest Spain, eventually obtaining a Master’s in Harbor Management and Shipping. “I realized that I loved global trade,” she says. “There’s something nice about seeing how goods go from one place to the other. There was something romantic about seeing that, and it just stuck to me.”
Coming to the UK
After spending several years working in the shipping industry in Spain, Patricia relocated to the U.K. in 2005, where she worked in trade planning for the Asia and Middle East markets at Maersk Group. Soon after, the global financial crisis forced the organization to take a deeper look at how its customers were impacted and gain a deeper understanding of their experience.
“We needed to reinvent how to respond to the needs of customers who were going through difficult times,” Patricia says. “We started asking questions like, ‘what is the container that is most important to you?” because shifts in demand meant that we couldn’t just think about perishable versus non-perishable goods.”
The experience, and the company’s subsequent shift to a more sustained focus on understanding and acting on customer needs, helped Patricia begin to grasp the emerging world of CX.
Transformation at British Gas
After several years of working in shipping, corporate planning, and global product management, Patricia was keen to take her burgeoning CX sensibilities and take on a role that was truly customer-centric. She found it in British Gas and joined the CX team in 2017 on the back of an organizational restructure.
I joined as someone who could help a newly-created team adhere to CX best practices,” she says. “At that time, the team didn't have a budget, didn't have positional authority, and looked more at the design of experiences in products and propositions than anything else.”
Though there was a genuine urgency to improve CX through a variety of projects and programs, those efforts sometimes worked at cross purposes due to a lack of organizational alignment. It became clear that to become truly customer-centric, a restructure was needed. “This was about collaboration, empowerment, and accountability,” she says.
Over the next few years, Patricia helped lead a customer-focused transformation by implementing a robust, customer program that aimed to uncover customer pain points, along with a comprehensive journey mapping effort that yielded several core journeys. As Transformation Lead, Patricia led cross-functional workstreams—with her and her team serving as the voice of the customer across projects, offering end-to-end support and ensuring alignment with the CX strategy in addition to linking the work to key business outcomes.
Patricia is quick to point out that there is more work to do—but that the support of the global CX community and the wealth of opportunities to learn new tools and techniques make transformative efforts easier.
“The CXPA has its competencies, and it made me visualize how I think holistically in an organization about what needs to happen and how connected it must be,” she says. “I preferred the bigger picture rather than narrowing myself into one vertical element of customer experience.” In preparing for the CCXP, Patricia gained power and knowledge through establishing a close-knit professional community of equally passionate CX professionals. “I used the opportunity to investigate and to learn and to create a very extensive network of people who I can talk to very candidly,” she says.
Now, her focus is on giving back to the community by sharing her thought leadership as an author and award judge, where she will be lending her expertise to evaluate submissions for this year’s CXPA Innovation Awards. “Customer experience helps organizations and helps individuals, and it’s important to have a mindset of giving back.”